Start of water, sewer consolidation study delayed to mid-April

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The joint committee of officials from Vero Beach, the county and Indian River Shores tasked with hiring a consultant to study the possible consolidation of water and wastewater systems won’t meet with their selected consulting firm until mid-April due to a scheduling conflict.

At the last committee meeting, the members decided to set the meeting without asking GAI Consultants if the meeting date and time would work for them.

During the meeting, former Indian River Shores Mayor Tom Cadden said “if they want the work, they’ll be here.”

The committee was supposed to meet with Orlando-based GAI Consultants on April 1 to hammer out a contract for services, but that meeting will be delayed by two weeks because GAI couldn’t make it to Vero Beach in time.

It is unclear if the scheduling conflict was due to vacations, the holiday week or another business commitment. The meeting is now set for April 15, which has pushed back the negotiation of the start of this project by two weeks.

As part of its proposal for the job, GAI team leaders stated they would station two people in Vero Beach to handle the details of the consolidation study and that they would also work with a local engineer.

GAI was chosen over Post Buckley Shuh and Jernigan, which promised it could get the job done by the end of June due to extensive mapping work and research already completed.

PBS&J lost out on the top spot after being ranked near the bottom of applicants by Vero Beach Water and Sewer Director Rob Bolton, who noted on his ranking sheet that PBS&J was “biased” toward the county taking over the systems and that, nearly one year ago, had advised him against a costly relocation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, suggesting instead that the city send its wastewater to the county.

Should the committee for some reason not be able to come to an agreement on price with GAI, it would ask PBS&J to negotiate a price.

The joint committee is scheduled to meet with GAI at 9 a.m. on April 15 at Vero Beach City Hall. This latest delay is one in a series of false starts and stops in the committee’s work, which began in October.

The committee was given the goal of having some usable results and recommendations back to Vero Beach, the county and Indian River Shores by early summer.

The Shores Town Council is relying on the information gathered to decide whether or not it will renew or terminate a franchise agreement with the City of Vero Beach for water and wastewater services.

The town’s franchise agreement expires on Oct. 31, 2016 and requires a five-year notice to be given by Oct. 31, 2011.

The county’s water and wastewater franchise with the City of Vero Beach expires in March 2017 and requires notice in 2012. That agreement governs service for county residents on the South Barrier Island, including the Moorings, as well as some mainland county residents outside the city limits.

A total of 38 percent of Vero Beach’s water and sewer customers live outside the city limits and could be off the system by 2017 if neither the county nor the Shores renew its franchise agreements.

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